Andrej Bagar Theatre in Nitra, 2017
Author: Mária Rázusová-Martáková
Directing by Rastislav Ballek

about the production

A daring and grandiose search for the hero. The hero is the monster of one nation’s desires. Opposing these desires is a monumental, metaphysical and cultural-historical detective story. The anthem of eternal fiasco and infinite error. If the whole nation is on stage, it is certain that it will not recognise itself. Myth is the sweet and bitter grandiosity of the everyday. The universe is one point, time is one moment, where everything happens simultaneously.

Rastislav Ballek is the first cynic among the last sentimental men. Not only does he not avoid intellectual traps in his thinking, he deliberately and voluntarily throws himself into them. Ballek is a researcher of testosterone mysteries, he is the punk archivist of national mentality – the nation is apparently still pictured as a mighty man.

The play’s important claim is that Jánošík has no biography – facts have been swallowed by myth long ago. A myth that has no fixed points, but is an incoherent network of the most bizarre contexts. The various layers of an infinite palimpsest are the ingredient, and simultaneity is the spice in this ambitious production, which thematises the arbitrary nature of truth and the labyrinth of knowledge. The play has its art-historical, socio-political, comparative, theatrical-performative, oratorical and meta-textual levels. The basic building block of the performance is the quotation – in the form of reproduction, paraphrase, imitation, irony, travesty, borrowing or theft. Thematic interpretations, reflections of genre, aggressive wit and monotonous appeal are the characters in Ballek’s theatrical-philosophical space. Ballek’s Slovak characters are always slaves to the national enlightenment, victims of the awareness of their mission, the prey of their internal demons. Polystyrene chunks of granite. If various versions, interpretations, ciphers and connections feed off Jánošík, the stage is occupied by related artistic disciplines: literature (through the suggestive-magical poetry of the original play), architecture (the scenery of an unattainable village idyll in the form of the Slovak soul’s fairy tale hut), sculpture (massive heads – masks, which represent the whole impoverished nation, a puppet show scenery, where individual will is an excessive luxury), film (a multimedia presentation concocted from the films of Martin Frič and Karol Plicka, the black-and-white victim on the altar of stylised folklore and impassioned naïve art), music (an original oratorio by Marián Lejava, in which the fearless traditionalist meets the monumental avant-gardist and is observed from somewhere in the corner by an uncontrollably playful post-modernist), performance (such as parricide and ghostly presence as medicinal procedures in the bloody baths, the establishment of a real space from the written heritage of different periods), dance (folklore as a viral infection, movement as initiation, as allegiance, as morbid addiction, as curse). In the beginning, we see the distasteful victory of lucidity. At the end, we perceive the decorative fog of blindness. Between the two, an archetypal struggle between uncontrollable instincts and analytical perspective unfolds. The truth is neither, there are many strategies. The play makes no secret of being a detective story. It is an extensive search for the lost text (the original play by Marta Rázusová-Martáková, which Slovak theatre could never understand). It is a search for the hero (yes, we still mourn the loss of the dramatic figure, and Ballek solves this elegantly – everyone is Jánošík, every character is Anti-Jánošík, anyone could be Jánošík). The play is a search for the theme (myth as a catalogue of conventions? authenticity as lack of education? an infinite number of details does not constitute the final whole? if we layer all representations on top of each another, do we attain reality? do moral dilemmas always reek of blood, urine, sweat and semen? freedom as a more or less successful simulation?) and the image (after all, even facts are but a certain sort of vision).
Miklós Forgács

“With this play, director Rastislav Ballek has remained faithful to the optics of deconstruction, fragmentation and eclecticism. He was not afraid to cut redundant lines, suitably to replace the left out with nonverbality or even with an excerpt from Botto’s The Death of Jánošík. It is not always easy to decipher the exact meaning behind the individual actions and scenes in this production, that is, because they are based on an associative method, deliberate chaos and polysemous metaphor, but Ballek nevertheless clearly articulates the basic polemic – what does the Jánošík of today look like?”
Karol Mišovic, Pravda, 3. 5. 2017

“This suggestive play, which does not go without ‘blood’, fire and the gallows, was written as an adaptation of the poetic work Jánošík by Mária Rázusová-Martáková. Her input as an author consists in a transposition of the tale of a highwayman from the domain of folk legend to the domain of historical theatre within an intellectual framework.”
Jana Černáková, MY Nitrianske noviny, 30. 4. 2017



directed by Rastislav Ballek
dramaturgy: Adam Gold
set design: Juraj Gráfel
costumes: Katarína Holková
choreography: Stanislava Vlčeková
music: Marián Lejava
music preparation: Eva Pacovská
cast: Branislav Matuščin, Roman Poláčik, Martin Šalacha, Marcel Ochránek, Barbora Andrešičová, Marián Viskup
choir: Alžbeta Alakšová, Peter Antoš, Andrej Barčák, Katarína Bielická, Dominika Ďurčová, Martin Fratrič, Nikola Jankovýchová, Júlia Karová, Andrea Klaučová, Milena Majerová, Patrícia Matušová, Beáta Mészárosová, Erik Mihálik, František Mikuš, Eva Pacovská, Veronika Šebeňová, Miroslav Šufliarsky, Lucia Šutková, Radovan Tomeš, Jozef Zábojník


Rastislav Ballek (1971) graduated in philosophy and sociology at the Philosophy Faculty of the Comenius University in Bratislava; he later took a degree in Theatre Directing at the Academy for Performing Arts in Bratislava. He worked as a director at a number of prominent theatres in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In 2003 – 2008, he was artistic director at The City Theatre Žilina. In Aréna Theatre, he created the cult authorial production Tiso (2005) and directed Kukura (2011), Holocaust (2012) and Rosmersholm (2013). At the Opera of the Slovak National Theatre, he directed the world premiere of Martin Burlas’ chamber opera Coma (2007). Ballek’s productions and theatrical projects are regularly staged at domestic and foreign international festivals (Theatre in Plzeň, Sterijino pozorje in Serbia, Nová dráma, Divadelná Nitra, Eurokaz festival in Zagreb, Expo 2000 in Hannover). Ballek is laureate for several awards of the prestigious critics’ survey DOSKY in various categories. Of the many works of this director that have appeared at the IF Divadelná Nitra, one should especially mention Tiso (2005), Hollyroth (2010), Kukura (2012) and Mojmír II or the Twilight of an Empire (2015).

Materials available

video of the production: yes
script of the production: SK, EN

If you are interested in these materials, write to archivy@nitrafest.sk